Briefing by Foreign Ministry Deputy Spokesperson Artyom Kozhin, Moscow, June 27, 2019
- Russian visit by Simon Coveney, Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade
- Meeting between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of Uruguay Cecilia Bottino
- Visit by Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary General Yousef Al-Othaimeen to the Russian Federation
- Exhibition to mark the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Bulgaria
- Upcoming Paris meeting of the International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons
- Update on Syria
- Update on Venezuela
- Developments in Sudan
- Latvian Saeima postpones a bill on automatic citizenship for children of non-residents
- Letter to PACE from the МН17 Disaster Foundation (Stichting Vliegramp MH17), the Netherlands, on behalf of the relatives of the victims killed in the Malaysian airliner disaster regarding Russia’s reinstatement in PACE
- Information on US support for ISIS in armed clashes with the Taliban
- E-visas for visits to the Kaliningrad Region will be issued starting July 1 and prospectively the same arrangement will be applied to the rest of the Russian Federation in 2021
- Results of sociological poll of journalists in Ukraine
- Journalists’ safety worldwide
- Developments around Bogdana Osipova
- Russia provides assistance to Tajikistan in the fight against drugs
- 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles
- The US listing Cuba in the third, lowest category of countries for its record in human trafficking in the 2019 report
- The position of the Russian Federation on the activation of Title III of the US exterritorial Helms-Burton Act
- Russia-Pakistan relations
- Update on Iran
- Russia’s return to PACE
- Russia-Poland relations
- Update on Georgia
- Reinstatement of Russia’s authorities in PACE
- G20 summit in Osaka on July 28-29
- Meeting of the US, China and Russia on Afghanistan
- Update on Tunisia
- Talks with representatives of the DPR and the LPR in Minsk, to be attended by Viktor Medvedchyuk
- The EU’s economic sanctions against Russia
The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Simon Coveney, is planning to arrive in Moscow on July 2.
The upcoming Russian-Irish talks between the ministers of foreign affairs will be the first since December 2012, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with the then Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland Eamon Gilmore on the sidelines of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting.
The planned discussion will include the current status of and development prospects for Russian-Irish relations, the possibility of invigorating cooperation in trade and the economy as well as cultural and humanitarian areas. They are also expected to exchange opinions on international and regional issues.
On July 2, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Cecilia Bottino, the President of the House of Representatives of the Uruguay General Assembly, who is to arrive in Moscow to attend the second Development of Parliamentarism International Forum (July 1-2).
Uruguay is one of Russia’s traditional partners in Latin America. Our countries maintain a trust-based political dialogue, including at the top and high levels, supported by active contacts between various departments and agencies. We believe that the visit by Chair of the House of Representatives Cecilia Bottino to Russia is an important step in further strengthening bilateral interparliamentary ties.
Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Yousef Al-Othaimeen will be in Moscow on July 2 through 4. His talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been scheduled for July 3.
They are to exchange opinions on international support for conflict settlements in OIC countries including Syria, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Sudan. They will focus on the exacerbated situation in the Persian Gulf and the necessity of preventing an armed conflict. The issues in Palestinian-Israeli relations, which are a priority for the OIC, will also be discussed.
The parties will consider various aspects of bilateral engagement between Russia and the OIC, including political dialogue, cooperation in combatting terrorism, ties between the parties’ financial and economic institutions, the implementation of humanitarian and cultural projects, the promotion of an inter-societal dialogue, and contact between Russian Muslims and foreign Muslims.
On July 5, an exhibition to mark the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Bulgaria will open at the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The exhibition will be opened by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia Atanas Krastin. It will feature documents and illustrations from Russia’s Foreign Policy Archives.
In late June, another meeting of the so-called International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, organised at France’s initiative in January 2018, is expected to be held in Paris. According to some reports, the French government is planning to urge this body’s participating countries, with NATO and EU member states at its core, to increase sanction pressure against Syria and Russia. Everyone is familiar with their far-fetched allegations – the never-ending insinuations concerning the Syrian chemical dossier as well as the Skripal case.
In this regard, we would like to remind the founders of this pseudo non-proliferation geopolitical interests club that they were the ones to assure us that their pet project was not directed against certain countries and was only aimed at strengthening the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ authority. Meanwhile, all of their “endeavours” suggest otherwise – namely, that they intend to continue politicising the work of this international organisation that is entirely technical by design.
We express our deep regret in this regard.
The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone remains the focus of attention. Terrorists from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group and allied groups continue to escalate tensions in Idlib with random shelling and attacks, keeping civilians at bay both inside and outside the zone. The jihadists are completely ignoring the ceasefire that was introduced on June 12 after mediation by Russia and Turkey. They renounced the truce and continued to aggressively attack Syrian government forces’ positions and strike residential neighbourhoods. The militants are pursing the most provocative attacks against the southern suburbs of Aleppo, and northwestern areas of the provinces of Hama and the mountainous Latakia. On June 17, the HTS terrorists fired missiles from MLRSs at Al Wadihi to the south of Aleppo, killing 13 and wounding dozens of civilians.
There are grounds for optimism on the political track for a Syrian settlement regarding the completion and initial convening of the Constitutional Committee. On June 20, a Russian interdepartmental delegation visited Damascus and met with President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. During the meeting the participants discussed the range of issues linked with the creation and convocation of the Constitutional Committee, its content and procedural rules in conformity with the resolutions at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. To develop and implement the agreements reached, Damascus is waiting for the arrival of UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen. We hope that the UN envoy, who has developed a constructive dialogue with Damascus, will use this window of opportunity to make progress in the political process.
Against this backdrop, we noted the opposition head in the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) Nasr al-Hariri’s criticism of Russia. Following the HNC meeting in Riyadh, Hariri blamed Russia for escalating tensions in Idlib and accused the Syrian authorities and the Russian Aerospace Forces of indiscriminate strikes at civilian facilities in the de-escalation zone. He emphasised that aggravating the situation in Idlib makes the discussion of political issues pointless, including the start of the Constitutional Committee.
These statements by Hariri are counterproductive and disappointing. They cast doubt over the sincerity and patriotic attitude of the Syrian opposition leaders, calling into question their desire to move towards a stable and trustworthy resolution of the crisis in Syria in the interests of all Syrians.
We continue monitoring the developments in the Rukban camp of internally displaced persons (IDP). We note with satisfaction the resumption of the evacuation and relocation of its residents to the territories controlled by the Syrian authorities. During the past two weeks, about 1,500 left the camp. In all, about 15,000 refugees have left Rukban. Importantly, the Syrian government is providing useable conditions for the return of the refugees to the places of their permanent residence and helps them settle into a peaceful life, which has been confirmed by UN representatives. In turn, we are ready to continue this work and pool all efforts with all those interested in a final resolution to the Rukban camp issue.
Lately we have talked a lot about Venezuela. Two days ago, I gave a detailed answer to the Izvestia newspaper’s questions on how sanctions affect the humanitarian situation there. We would like to add the following.
The arrival of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in Venezuela was important to establish constructive and unbiased cooperation between the government, the opposition and the UN agencies. We appreciate Ms Bachelet’s balanced visit, with the intention to sort out the situation in an impartial way and help find compromise solutions. It comes as no surprise that the High Commissioner’s conclusions following her visit annoyed the radical opposition. We believe that the final report that is scheduled to be presented on July 5 will also have a moderate tone.
It is noteworthy that after the High Commissioner’s words about how sanctions affect the situation in the country, a leader of the moderate opposition also condemned the restrictions that hurt the least protected Venezuelans. This means that a discussion in the same language is possible. We hope that this is not a tribute to the political environment but a position that won’t change.
In this context, we focused on the information about another coup d’etat attempt that was being prepared against President Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle as well as plans to organise new actions further undermining the situation in the country. It is good that the Venezuelan law enforcement agencies managed to duly stop them in time.
Of course, such aggressive intentions do not help find ways out of the crisis that is taking place in the dialogue between the government and the opposition with Norway’s “good offices.” I would like to stress that we fully support this process and call on everyone to refrain from imposing a point of view or any conditions allegedly resulting in decisions on the participants and organisers of the talks. The solution must be found by the Venezuelans, without destructive or moreover coercive interference from the outside. In this context, we cannot agree with US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams: every option may be put on the table except the military one.
Today we again appeal to all the constructive political forces in Venezuela to continue working together to find a peaceful solution through inclusive dialogue, without ultimatums or preconditions. The international community should encourage these efforts and play a constructive role, including developing measures to promote trust between the political opponents.
From the very beginning of the crisis in Sudan, we have been calling on the political forces in the country to resolve the existing conflicts through peaceful, democratic means using an inclusive dialogue. We support the mediation efforts of the African Union and the neighbouring countries to accomplish this.
But at the same time, we proceed from the assumption that the solution to intra-Sudanese problems is, above all, a matter for the Sudanese themselves. We consider external pressure, attempts at blackmail, ultimatums and other forms of gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state to be unacceptable, counterproductive and capable of provoking a hardening of the positions of the parties and an aggravation of the internal political conflict in Sudan.
A few days ago, the Latvian Saeima supported a nationalist deputy initiative to postpone consideration of a draft law on the automatic conferment of citizenship to children of Latvian non-residents, which was re-submitted by President Raimonds Vejonis. Since the Latvian parliamentarians have left on holiday, a decision on this bill was postponed indefinitely.
If the law is adopted it will apply only to children born after January 1, 2020. At the same time, according to analysts, it refers to only a few dozen newborns per year. Apparently, the representatives of the nationalist parties considered babies born into the families of non-residents to be priori disloyal to the Latvian state.
This issue is not new. The government of Latvia regularly receives strong recommendations to address it from a number of international organisations and experts, including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
But unfortunately, the country’s legislators have once again decided to ignore even a minimal effort to ensure the basic rights of discriminated against non-residents in Latvia. A democratic Europe is silent.
Letter to PACE from the МН17 Disaster Foundation (Stichting Vliegramp MH17), the Netherlands, on behalf of the relatives of the victims killed in the Malaysian airliner disaster regarding Russia’s reinstatement in PACE
We have become aware of the letter sent by the МН17 Disaster Foundation (Stichting Vliegramp MH17), the Netherlands, on behalf of the relatives of the victims killed in the Malaysian airliner disaster that calls for the postponement of Russia’s reinstatement in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
We certainly understand the feelings of the relatives of the victims of the tragedy that occurred over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, which are related to the investigation carried out by the international Joint Investigation Team (JIT). But letters like this, as well as other efforts to influence the Russian side in this matter, are actually “knocking at an open door.”
The Russian side has been collaborating with the Netherlands from the first day of the tragedy by providing all available information on the МН17 disaster. However, the unprecedented amount of data supplied by Russia to the JIT has been stubbornly ignored. It includes, among other things, the results of a full-scale experiment performed by Almaz-Antey Corporation and the primary radar data that disprove the possibility of a missile launch from the spot on which the JIT is insisting, as well as declassified documents proving the Ukrainian identity of the missile that downed the plane, and many other things.
At the same time, we would like to note that Ukraine is not being blamed for its failure to close the airspace.
The Russian side deeply mourns the disaster victims and will render all possible assistance in establishing the truth about the MH17 crash in order to hold liable the real but not pre-designated perpetrators. We are convinced that the road to truth runs through dialogue and cooperation.
We have been hearing more often about an increasing armed struggle between Taliban detachments and ISIS in the east of Afghanistan, as well as about covert military support for ISIS from US forces.
In our view, all of this testifies to the fact that on the one hand the Taliban is fulfilling its word to increase its efforts against the international terrorists who have settled in Afghanistan and who are working at establishing a world caliphate, and on the other hand, the only source of information about US support for ISIS is the Taliban, so it is impossible to confirm this so far. We have repeatedly expressed to our US colleagues our concern about this, but they flatly denied the reliability of the information. Given this, it remains to hope for the sincerity of the United States and their NATO partners in the fight against international terrorism in Afghanistan.
However, we do not doubt that the Afghan government troops and their foreign allies are not taking any action against ISIS in the field. Some military analysts suggest that this is a way for the Afghanistan authorities to attempt to artificially bolster ISIS on the battlefield against the Taliban and thereby weaken their key military-political opponents. We are calling on the international coalition forces and Afghanistan to put these illusions aside, if any, and concentrate on its fight against ISIS and their allies in those areas of Afghanistan where they have already gained a foothold.
Starting July 1, citizens of foreign states, the list of which will be endorsed by the Government of the Russian Federation on July 1, will be able to apply for e-visas to visit the Kaliningrad Region on the Foreign Ministry’s special website http://electronic-visa.kdmid.ru/.
Thirty-day e-visas for stays of up to eight days from the date of entry in the Kaliningrad Region will be issued free of charge based on the online application by a foreign citizen on the Foreign Ministry’s website no later than four calendar days before the scheduled arrival date. It must be accompanied by an e-file with an attached digital photo. No other documents will be required to receive an e-visa.
E-visas for visits to the Kaliningrad Region within its territory will be valid for entry into and exit from the Russian Federation only through the state border checkpoints on the territory of the Kaliningrad Region.
Transport companies will be able to check the possession of a valid e-visa by a foreign citizen on the Foreign Ministry’s special automated website https://evisacheck.kdmid.ru/.
The working group on implementing the Concept of the State Migration Policy of the Russian Federation for 2019-2025, established at the Russian President’s instruction of March 6, 2019, drafted and submitted to the Government the proposals on introducing the rules for short-term visits (up to 16 days) to the Russian Federation on e-visas by foreign citizens for tourist, business, guest, humanitarian and transit purposes.
Under the schedule for fitting out the main checkpoints of Russia’s state border with the necessary equipment, and provided the other technical issues are resolved, the introduction of the regime of entry to the Russian Federation on standard e-visas will start on January 1, 2021, beginning with the most frequented border checkpoints that will be equipped with the new software in Moscow, Kazan, St Petersburg and Sochi.
The President of the Russian Federation supported the proposals on June 12 of this year. Implementation by the competent agencies will start when they receive the relevant instruction from the Government of the Russian Federation.
It is not planned to involve other regions in the pilot project before the aforementioned date.
Recently, a Ukrainian NGO – the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation – conducted a sociological poll of local journalists, which has revealed some fairly alarming statistics.
According to the poll, 70 percent of journalists consider censorship on behalf of the media owners to be the main factor in limiting freedom of speech in Ukraine; 53 percent mentioned the low skill levels of their colleagues; and 41 percent mentioned threats of physical violence, including those coming from the authorities.
About 78 percent of respondents complained of official refusals to present socially important information; 42 percent said their stories were censored and banned from publication; 38 percent reported receiving orders to publish deliberately fabricated material. Only 7 percent did not feel any restrictions on their professional activities.
This deplorable statistics shows that the state of the media in Ukraine leaves much to be desired. Sometimes deliberately ignoring the norms of international law and other universally accepted standards, Kiev continues harassing journalists and subjecting them to various forms of discrimination, including physical violence and legal prosecution.
There are many examples of this. Editor-in-Chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine Kirill Vyshinsky has been imprisoned in Kiev for over a year. He is being subjected to an overtly rigged trial on absurd charges of high treason.
Even the US NGO Freedom House, an international organisation in this area, made specific accusations against Kiev in connection with the death of Ukrainian journalist Vadim Komarov on June 20 after he was cruelly beaten by unidentified individuals. Human rights activists have noted that law enforcement bodies do not conduct proper inquiries, and that suspects manage to escape responsibility.
We would like to point out the results of the above poll to OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Desir, and to the relevant international agencies and NGOs. Obviously, there will be no independent journalism or free media in Ukraine without the proper pressure on Kiev.
The situation with freedom of the press and journalists’ safety continues to deteriorate worldwide.
Apart from the above-mentioned incidents involving media outlets in Ukraine, more frequent attacks on journalists during protests cause alarm. According to various reports, about 30 media representatives were injured during mass riots in Tbilisi, Georgia, including a producer of Ruptly video agency who was hit by a rubber bullet. Aggressive radicals staged an outrageous attack on the Rossiya 24 television channel’s film crew.
Earlier, we noted numerous acts of violence against journalists in France during the Yellow Vests’ protests.
We are once again urging the concerned international agencies and NGOs not to overlook all violations of media rights and freedoms and to help guarantee real, rather than imaginary, safety of journalists, including during demonstrations and civil unrest.
Against this backdrop, we would like to find some positive news, and here is the good news: On June 14, Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Timur Shafir was elected Vice President of the International Federation of Journalists. Moreover, Head of the Legal Department at the Russian Union of Journalists Natalia Golosnova joined the Federation’s Executive Committee.
We are happy to note that the professional journalist and human rights community values our colleagues’ experience and expertise. This allows Russian representatives to take part in international efforts to guarantee rights and freedoms of the media worldwide.
In connection with the questions and developments around Bogdana Osipova, we would like to note that our position regarding a US court’s verdict concerning the Russian citizen is reflected in the June 7 comment made by the Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson and remains unchanged: We consider the verdict to be unjust, and we believe that it once again highlights the US justice system’s deliberate prejudice towards Russian citizens.
By agreement with the Russian Consulate General in Houston, the convicted person’s defence counsels intend to appeal the verdict in the near future and to demand that the court reduce her prison term by ruling that extortion charges brought up against her are null and void.
Ms Osipova’s husband, an American citizen, is demanding that her daughters, now staying in Kaliningrad, be extradited to the United States. The Foreign Ministry’s representative office in Kaliningrad is actively cooperating with regional judicial authorities in order to s uphold their legitimate rights.
In turn, we will continue to exert maximum efforts so that we can resolve this Russian-US conflict concerning family law, with due consideration for the interests of all parties and the Russian citizen’s fastest possible return home.
The Russian Federation provides anti-drug assistance to the Republic of Tajikistan. In particular, on April 17, the Russian Ministry of the Interior and the Drug Control Agency under the President of Tajikistan signed an Agreement on cooperation and assistance in countering illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors. The agreement was signed in Moscow during President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon’s visit to Russia. Previously, Russia provided similar assistance worth in total $10.8 million to the country’s Drug Control Agency in 2012–2014 and 2015–2017.
On June 7, the Russian Government issued a directive earmarking up to $3.6 million in federal financing of measures to assist the DCA of Tajikistan in 2019-2021.
Furthermore, in 2019, the Russian Ministry of the Interior fully or partly subsidised degree programmes and refresher courses for Tajik law enforcement bodies’ employees at universities associated with the Russian Ministry. At present, 220 employees of the internal affairs bodies of the Republic of Tajikistan are being trained in higher education programmes in Russia. This year, 30 more scholarships have been allocated for degree programmes, and 74 specialists will be trained in refresher courses in as many as 40 subjects, including anti-drug matters.
The significant amounts of financial assistance as well as the preferential educational opportunities for law enforcement agencies of Tajikistan vividly demonstrate Russia’s commitment to continued support of the republic’s anti-drug agency, which plays an important role in blocking the supply channels of Afghan drugs, including the so-called northern route to Russia and other CIS and European countries.
To conclude the introductory part of this briefing, I would like to talk about certain historical matters. On June 22, Russia and many other countries, primarily former Soviet republics, held memorial events to commemorate the Day of Remembrance and Sorrow, when the Great Patriotic War began. There is not a single family in Russia that was not affected by this colossal tragedy and that did not make its contribution to the victory of good over evil. According to official count, that war cost the Soviet Union alone 27 million lives. Overall, WWII, the deadliest conflict in human history, took the lives of over 50 million people. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote about its lessons and conclusions in detail in his article “On Victory Day” published in International Affairs magazine last week.
Tomorrow, June 28, is the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles. On the one hand, this document brought closure to World War I that came as a “non-calendar beginning of the 20th century.” On the other hand, it virtually created an enabling environment for the prerequisites of World War II and became one of its root causes.
I am not just talking about the crippling terms for defeated Germany because overcoming those terms was to a large extent what Nazi propaganda and politics were built upon. I am talking about an extremely lopsided and unbalanced nature of the document itself. Driven by mercenary and momentary motives, the “fathers” of Versaille exhibited an astonishing lack of foresight by excluding Russia from the main actors of the post-war world order, forgetting about its role, casualties and contribution to the Allies’ shared victory. They equally ignored both Vladimir Lenin’s Decree on Peace and the attempts of anti-bolsheviks, who sincerely considered themselves successors of the Allies’ cause, to take part in the post-war peace conference and protect the interests of our country there. Taking advantage of internal disagreements in Russia, they simply chose to forget about it. It was convenient – but shortsighted.
Colleagues, today we are turning to this chapter of century-old history not because we want to assign guilt or to divide the participants of those events into winners and losers. We simply wanted to once again emphasise that the future of the European and global community is in unity and cooperation, a harmonious combination of national, regional and global interests rather than in attempts to ensure one’s own security by force and to the detriment of another party. Sustainable security can only be equal and undivided. This principle is present in Russia’s foreign policy concept, which prioritises establishing a just and democratic world order based on collectivism in addressing international problems and supremacy of international law. Russia has always supported and continues to support an equal dialogue between all states, with respect for the national interests of each of the states, every time proving the pernicious impact of certain measures, including a sanction-based policy, because, as history clearly demonstrates, nothing good will come of it.
Question: What can you say about the US decision to refer Cuba to the third, lowest, human trafficking category in the 2019 report on this matter?
Artyom Kozhin: As for some unilateral attempts to put pressure on other countries, specifically Cuba, you know exactly what our position is. Cuba is a responsible member of the international community. We are well aware of the high level of Cuban medicine and that Cuba rendered humanitarian assistance to many countries in that region. We think that it is wrong to take any unilateral actions.
Question: What is the Russian Federation’s position in connection with the US applying Title III of its exterritorial Helms-Burton Act?
Artyom Kozhin: Our position on this matter was repeatedly outlined, including during Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s talks with Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez Parilla in May 2019. In April and May 2019, this topic was also discussed by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova at her briefings. Washington’s decision is totally at odds with both international law and the demand advanced by the overwhelming majority of the international community. As I have already said, you can find the details in the transcripts of the events I have mentioned.
Question: President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Bishkek. We saw in international reports that the two leaders, both being athletic, found a common language quickly. What are the expectations for Russian-Pakistani relations? Can we expect that Vladimir Putin will visit Islamabad or Imran Khan will visit Moscow?
Artyom Kozhin: Your question is full of positive energy but I must reiterate that it is up to the Presidential Executive Office’s press service to comment on presidential-level events. I would recommend that you put your question to them. As for Russian-Pakistani relations, I think they are advancing in a stable and positive manner.
Question: Who, in your opinion, could attack the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, if not Iran? Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said at a meeting in Israel that the downed US drone had been in Iranian airspace. He also said that he had been supplied with this information by the Russian Defence Ministry. What data is there to prove this claim?
Artyom Kozhin: As for the tankers in the Gulf of Oman, you know our position. We think it is necessary to wait until a high-quality international investigation has been carried out; this is why we are not making any forecasts or assumptions. The relevant international organisations must analyse the situation. As I said, an investigation is in order.
As for the second part of your question, I am not ready to comment on it in any way because I do not have the relevant information. We will get more accurate information about this and go back to this subject if it is possible.
Question: What does the Foreign Ministry think of the part of Armenian delegation voting against Russia’s reinstatement in PACE?
Artyom Kozhin: You are probably referring to the negative vote of Armenian deputy Ruben Rubinyan. We don’t have a problem with that. As far as we understand and based on the deputy’s comments he simply confused the buttons when he was voting. Actually he voted in favour. It was just a technical error.
Question: At the recent session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and proposed setting up “a group for resolving complicated issues.” Russia and Poland have had no official contacts for five years already. How would you explain Poland’s move? Can such a group work?
Artyom Kozhin: We are always open to constructive dialogue on all issues. What is most important is that Poland is sincere in its statements. If the Poles are sincere it is worth considering this proposal and starting a dialogue. There are a lot of issues and they need to be discussed. Probably, it could become a useful new format.
Question: Western policy tends to increasingly resort to force. We can see it in Georgia and in the aggravation of the situation in Moldova. Can the fact that the West has been defeated in the diplomatic domain and now resorts to the use of force be described as a victory of Russian diplomacy? Specifically, this is manifested in the “Georgian Maidan”: the dialogue with Georgia has been on the rise until the forced Russophobic Maidan flared up and set the country against Russia.
Artyom Kozhin: As for the assessment of the situation in Georgia, you are right to note that it was a Russophobic provocation. Who is behind it is another question. You asked a broad and philosophical question that can be answered for a long time. I will be brief: Russia has focused its energy, it has its feet firmly on the ground and is conducting an independent foreign policy. This has gradually become clear to many of our partners. Some are angry and do not want to face up to reality. You can see it perfectly well that there is a general understanding of Russia’s role as an independent and responsible international player, and it is obvious.
Question: What can you say about Russia’s return to PACE?
Artyom Kozhin: On June 26, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) made a major step towards overcoming a drawn-out systemic crisis in the organisation. A majority of delegates adopted the motion (116 voted for and 62 against it) to restore Russia’s voting rights, rejecting all the amendments submitted by British and Ukrainian delegates to derail the process of Russia’s return to PACE as a full member.
On the first day of its session, June 24, a majority of MEPs (118 votes against 62) adopted a resolution on Strengthening the Decision-Making Process of the Parliamentary Assembly Concerning Credentials and Voting, which introduced the required amendments to its Rules of Procedure saying that the members’ key rights shall not be suspended or withdrawn.
These PACE decisions reflect the agreement reached in the Council of Europe, including PACE, that the rights of national delegations may not be suspended or withdrawn for political reasons and that such practices contradict the fundamental principle of international law (the sovereign equality of states) and the Statute of the organisation. These decisions also amount to the admission that European problems cannot be settled without Russia.
Russia is interested in resuming work in the Council of Europe (CoE) on an equal basis with other members and in the interests of the 830 million people living on the continent. In fact, it never stopped working towards this in all other formats, in particular at the intergovernmental level, but not at the parliamentary level. The international standards for combating corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking and a number of other spheres, to the elaboration of which Russia contributed within the framework of the CoE, are strengthening the Russian legal system, stabilising the government management system and stimulating the development of a healthy economic environment. CoE conventions are the instruments of the common legal and humanitarian space in Europe and the basis for bilateral cooperation with European states.
The decisions adopted at PACE have also created conditions for settling the problem of Russia’s delayed membership fees.
We heard that the Ukrainian delegation and several other delegates who most actively hindered Russia’s return to PACE have decided to leave PACE. We believe that their powers have not been suspended and they can resume their work in the organisation any day. An obvious conclusion is that PACE has not supported their attempts to foster confrontation.
Question: A G20 summit will be held on June 28-29 in Osaka, where a number of top-level and ministerial meetings will be held. What are the Foreign Ministry’s expectations? What should we expect from this summit? Will any joint documents be signed or any joint statements made?
Artyom Kozhin: As you have said, it will be top-level meetings, so, please, ask the Press Service of the Presidential Executive Office for comments on this subject.
As for the results, let’s wait and see: we will know about them very soon. Just monitor the media.
A briefing of Russian G20 Sherpa Svetlana Lukash will be held at the Ministry’s Press Centre on July 2 (the announcement has been posted on our website). We invite you to attend it.
Question: The envoys of the United States, China and Russia on Afghanistan are scheduled to meet in July. Where will they meet? What will distinguish this meeting from the one they held in April? What are Russia’s expectations from it?
Artyom Kozhin: The date for the trilateral meeting between Presidential Special Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Special Envoy on the Afghan Affairs of the Foreign Ministry of China Deng Xijun has not been set yet. We are waiting for an official invitation from our Chinese partners. We hope the meeting will be held in July.
Question: I have a question about the terrorist attacks in Tunisia. Are there any Russians among the victims? Do you plan to restrict Russians’ trips to Tunisian resorts in this connection?
Artyom Kozhin: We are still collecting information. The Russian Embassy in Tunisia is in contact with the local law enforcement agencies to clarify the situation. As of now, we have no information about any Russians injured in the attacks.
Question: Will you comment on today’s talks between Viktor Medvedchuk and Lugansk and Donetsk representatives held in Minsk? Why is prisoner exchange being negotiated by a representative of one party, Medvedchuk, rather than the official Ukrainian representative?
Artyom Kozhin: It is a matter of direct ties between Kiev, Lugansk and Donetsk. However, we do welcome the exchange.
Question: The EU has officially extended its economic sanctions against Russia until January 31, 2020. What does the Russian Foreign Ministry think about this decision?
Artyom Kozhin: We have talked a great deal about the sanctions today. We did not initiate any sanctions, and we regard them as non-constructive EU games. That’s their business. But in principle, these sanctions are not legitimate.